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Armed and Dangerous

Treva Jenkins Education, Life in the Classroom

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Arming teachers in the classroom is a very controversial and heated topic right now.  I am personally so proud of our young people for taking a stand on the gun issue and making their voices heard above all the noise. There are a growing number of teachers also speaking out on social media; it’s being called the #ArmMeWith movement, and their reactions point to the lack of resources that many teachers say impinges upon their ability to educate children. These teachers are adamant about guns having no place in education. Instead, this movement is focusing on “a society that recognizes my fellow teachers and me as professionals instead of missionaries or martyrs.”

arm me with

Image Source: Asian News International, February 24, 2018, www.republicworld.com

Some of our government leaders and officials would argue that I would be the ideal teacher and candidate to carry a weapon in school. I spent over 10 years in the military; I had to undergo several psychological evaluations; I held a top secret security clearance, and I am trained in a wide variety of explosives and firearms, including the M-16 and the M-60 AR rifles.

Am I really an ideal candidate?

In this gun debate, especially those who want to arm teachers with rifles, has anyone ever stopped to think about the overwhelming conflict of interest here?

I pride myself on building strong bonds with my scholars and their families. My students come and share their personal struggles with me. They will often get permission from other teachers to come sit in my room because they are having a really bad day. Now, what if, God forbid, there is an incident where one of my scholars brings a gun to school to do harm to others, and in the midst of the chaos, because of the loving and nurturing relationship I have established with this student, he or she seeks me out. Not to injure or harm me, but to speak to me for comfort, support, and guidance. With gun in hand, am I then supposed to “disarm” my student by shooting him down?

Really? Is this what we mean by arming teachers? Have our leaders considered the psychological warfare this scenario would cause me? The pain, the guilt, the anguish would be unfathomable!!

What about the reverse scenario? What if I am unable, at that moment, to pull the trigger and this young man or woman goes on a shooting rampage murdering hundreds of my students and fellow staff members? Are we really asking teachers to bear this type of incomprehensible burden?

Do we really expect any teacher to return to the profession after any of these heart-wrenching scenarios?

How would arming teachers even work? Would teachers be carrying guns in holsters? Is every classroom going to have a gun closet? When you have seconds to act, are teachers supposed to use those seconds getting their gun instead of getting their students to safety? Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in actuality, it has the potential to make our classrooms more dangerous.

Even with my military background and training, how can I adequately protect my students with a concealed handgun? These shooters are wearing full body armor, protective headgear, armed with an AR-15 rifle that shoots an excessive barrage of bullets!

I would do anything to keep my scholars safe! Many of us would put ourselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of these little ones, but turning our educational institutions into a combat war zone is a dangerous and unrealistic proposition.

We also have to consider all the many instances where students could get a hold of the gun, or accidents happening, and teachers, of course, would be the easy scapegoats. What if my students found out that I was the “designated gun carrier”? Would that not change my relationship with my scholars? neaToday reports that there is a “bill moving through the state legislature that would train teachers to carry guns. It allocates $67 million to create so-called “school marshalls,” staff trained to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.”

I would rather see our legislators invest in our SROs (School Resource Officers). As Jaime Festa-Daigle wrote in her blog, It is important that we have trained police to help us with tactical matters, responses to the community, and continued investigations.”  We also need to consider universal background checks to ensure that dangerous people can’t have dangerous weapons. I would also like to see us invest in mental health counseling and peer mediation. I believe these initiatives would be more effective than arming teachers.

As teachers, we already have so many concerns and personal stresses like providing engaging lessons for our young ones, making sure our kids are fed and they get home safe. It’s just a few of the thousands of concerns we have for our young leaders each day. We absolutely cannot then take on being armed and the massive amount of anxiety that would bring to an already highly stressful profession.

I feel this idea of arming teachers is mostly coming from people outside of education; I would really urge our lawmakers to start listening to those of us who are in the classroom because we truly understand the dynamics and impact this would have on our school community. However, I do know there are some teachers who support legislature to arm teachers; I have read their blogs and Op-ed pieces. Most of them are part of small, rural communities where police response time is delayed because of distance. Schools in Texas and Missouri also have policies in place where teachers are currently armed.

Because of my military background, my current principal would like for me to consider this idea if this type of proposal and legislation ever reached my school district.

— What do you think? What other solutions would you propose to make our schools safer? Which ones would you not want to see at your school?

 

Treva Jenkins

Phoenix, Arizona

My name is Treva Jenkins and I am an Arizona Master Teacher. My journey into education did not begin right away. After college, I spent several years in the United States Army as a Military Intelligence Officer. I learned a great deal and the knowledge and experience gained from the military was priceless, but my heart yearned to work with young people. After leaving the military, I began to pursue a career in education by working at a very special charter school for at-risk youth. This experience shaped my educational philosophy; this is when I truly fell in love with teaching. I eventually received my post-baccalaureate and a Master’s degree in Education Reform and Intervention from Ottawa University. I am currently teaching at a Title I public school in the Maricopa Unified School District. Each year, I get the privilege of teaching an amazing group of 7th grade students. My love and passion is helping my students discover the exhilarating world of English, Language Arts. Not only do I get to teach an extraordinary group of 7th graders every year, I am a mentor teacher. As a mentor teacher, I have the wonderful opportunity of helping beginning teachers find success and gratification in their new work. I understand that being a lifelong learner is a core responsibility of my profession. Currently, I am a candidate for National Board Teacher Certification. The journey into becoming a National Board Certified Teacher has truly changed my teaching practice. The process helps to inform my practice, to become a better teacher, and to reflect on what I do in the classroom. I have been teaching for over 16 years and the greatest inspiration is my students. I am also experiencing the best of both worlds, a type of educational utopia: helping my students discover their true potential and providing support to our valuable beginning teachers. There’s a passage from the Bible that I keep close to my heart when I am reflecting on my teaching experiences. The author writes, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Regardless of the many trials we may face in education today, platforms like this one provide hope for educators who want to have a voice on issues that really matter to them. I look forward to sharing my stories with you and hearing your feedback, experiences and opinions on policies impacting the classroom. Remember, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

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  • Beth Maloney

    Treva, Your perspective here is invaluable. The conflict of interest is apparent to me. I agree with you 100% on needing to invest in SROs and student mental health services and counselors. Sharing!

  • http://www.leadfromINtheclassroom.com/ Jess Ledbetter

    As a preschool teacher, I’m horrified by the idea of having a gun in my classroom. My students are curious and inventive. They lack danger awareness. I think it would be dangerous for my students to have a gun in our classroom. Worse, I think these ideas program kids to be afraid. And that is something I could never agree with. Great post!

  • Angela Buzan

    I agree with this post whole-heartedly. I think this should be a TED talk.